Alan Twigg, Author

Alan Twigg with Guitar CaseAlan Twigg became a member of the Order of Canada in 2014 “for his countless contributions to the promotion of British Columbian literature and publishing.” In 2000, he was named the first recipient of the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions to literature and publishing. He also received the first and only ABPBC Media Award in 1988, given for similar work.

In 2007 Alan Twigg became the second recipient of the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellowship in the Humanities at Simon Fraser University “to recognize and support leaders in the humanities who are not necessarily part of the academy.” In the same year he was the first Writer in Residence at the George Price Center for Peace in Belize. In 2010, he received the Pandora’s Collective Publisher’s Award of Merit. In 2011 he received the Mayor of Vancouver’s annual Literary Arts Award.

He has produced the educational newspaper B.C. BookWorld since 1987. It has been cited by the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing as the most essential cog in the infrastructure the supports writing and publishing in British Columbia.

Since 2001, he has written and managed ABCBookWorld, a public reference service for and about more than 12,500 British Columbia authors, hosted by Simon Fraser University Library, reaching more than 4,000 visitors per day. It is the Wikipedia of B.C. literature.

In 2014, he launched BCBookLook, an omnibus news hub for B.C. literature that provides a wide range of original materials such as videos, audio interviews, blogs, bestseller lists, lengthy essays, excerpts, theatre reviews and event information.

Alan Twigg is the author of seventeen books, including histories of Belize and Cuba. Most recently he edited Undaunted, an anthology to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of B.C. BookWorld, and he provided the introduction for Peter Sekirin’s Memories of Chekhov (2011), a documentary biography of Anton Chekhov (1860-1904).

In 2008, he wrote Full-Time: A Soccer Story, the first, serious, literary book about the beautiful game from a Canadian perspective. It’s a year-long account of Vancouver soccer players who travel to southern Spain and test themselves against much younger, European ex-professionals. It was re-released in a Readers Digest version in 2010.

In 2013, Alan Twigg won a gold medal in soccer for Canada at the World Masters Games in Turin, Italy, as a member of an undefeated Over-50s team. The squad allowed one goal in seven games to win the world championship for their age category. World Masters Games are held every four years.

Alan Twigg with George Woodcock

Alan Twigg with George Woodcock

In 2009, he wrote Tibetans in Exile: The Dalai Lama & The Woodcocks, a book about the private lives of the prolific anarchist George Woodcock and his Buddhist wife Ingeborg Woodcock who befriended the Dalai Lama in 1961. Their charitable aid work gave rise to two, still operational, non-profit societies, Tibetan Refugee Aid Society and Canada India Village Aid.

In 2010, he published the first critical and comprehensive overview of B.C. literature, The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors, the fourth and largest volume in his series on the literary history of British Columbia that includes First Invaders (2004), Aboriginality (2005) and Thompson’s Highway (2006).

Alan Twigg co-founded the B.C. Book Prizes in 1985. He served as its executive director and chief fundraiser during a rebuilding stage in the 1990s, continuing to provide management and administrative support, for free, until 2001.

He also founded, and has coordinated since 1995, British Columbia’s annual George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award (originally called the Terasen Award) for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia. In 2012 he co-founded the Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for outstanding academic book about British Columbia, an award he co-manages on a volunteer basis. As well, he founded and coordinated the VanCity Book Prize for best B.C. book pertaining to women’s issues. In 2004 he co-founded the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness, for which he provides all administrative services on a volunteer basis. He coordinated the City of Vancouver Book Prize for five years and he has organized various events to honour the province’s senior writers, including a series of events for and about British Columbia’s foremost man of letters, George Woodcock, in 1994.

He has hosted a CBC television series about B.C. authors and he frequently serves as a host for public events. For several years he has contributed to Sheryl MacKay’s CBC Radio program North by Northwest with an ongoing series about important B.C. books called ‘Turning Up the Volumes.’

Among the various documentary films he has written, produced and hosted are George Woodcock, Anarchist of Cherry Street; Jeannette Armstrong: Knowledge-Keeper; and Spilsbury’s Coast which aired nationally on CBC.

Other subjects have included Eric Nicol, Peter Trower, the B.C. Book Prizes and the activist/poet Bud Osborn, for whom he also produced a music CD called Hundred Block Rock. He has been a contributor to books about Anton Chekhov, Leonard Cohen, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, Matt Cohen, the Georgia Straight and various other anthologies.

He has contributed to many publications such as Quill & Quire, BC Historical News, Georgia Straight, Globe & Mail, British Columbia History, Lived Experience, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Maclean’s, Vancouver Sun, Step and Pacific Northwest Review of Books.

From 1995 to 1998 he was an editorial page columnist for The Province, a stint that was terminated by the intervention of Conrad Black, the owner, who objected to his opinions.

He wrote weekly theatre reviews for Georgia Straight for approximately three years in the early 1980s, taking over the column from Tom Shandel, preceding the tenure of long-serving critic Colin Thomas. During that period he edited one issue of the Georgia Straight. He later wrote and performed an original musical at the Arts Club Revue Theatre, Where The Songs Come From. As of 2013, he resumed providing theatre reviews for The Province and for, a site managed by veteran actor Jerry Wasserman.

His first book of literary history, Vancouver & Its Writers, was shortlisted for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize in 1987. First Invaders was shortlisted for the same award in 2005, the same year he won First Prize in the Lush Creative Non-Fiction contest, sponsored by subTerrain magazine. His award-winning memoir about the death of his father was re-published in The Utne Reader. The Essentials received an honourable mention from the B.C. Historical Society for its annual Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for B.C. history.

Alan Twigg was a founding board member of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing and he has taught classes at the Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and various high schools. He briefly taught a course on the history of B.C. publishing and literature for Simon Fraser University, the university he had dropped out of in 1971. After one year of study at SFU, he quit and instead drove a garbage truck.

He served on the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Committee and he has hosted countless literary events, including the Simon Fraser University’s third annual Symposium on the Novel at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in 2004 and the 25th annual B.C. Book Prizes gala in 2009.

He served a two-year term as a Library Trustee on the board of directors for the Vancouver Public Library, 2011-2012.

In 1999 he coordinated a fundraising campaign for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, an organization he continues to support. For five years he collected and sent nursing and medical supplies to Belize, in conjunction with DHL. In 2007, he organized and hosted Reckoning 07, a conference on the past and future of British Columbia writing and publishing, held at Simon Fraser University in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of BC BookWorld. The conference was an undertaking prompted by his Shadbolt Fellowship.

Alan Twigg is a fifth-generation Vancouverite. Relatives of both his mother and father lived in British Columbia in the 1800s.


Undaunted: The Best of BC BookWorld (Ronsdale, 2013). 978-1-55380-253-2  242 p.

The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors. (Ronsdale, 2010). 978-1-55380-108-5 320 p.

Tibetans in Exile: The Dalai Lama & The Woodcocks (Ronsdale, 2009). 978-1-55380-079-8 271 p.

Full-Time: A Soccer Story (Douglas Gibson Books, McClelland & Stewart, 2008). 978-0-7710-8645-8 293 p.

Thompson’s Highway: British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800-1850 (Ronsdale, 2006) 978-1-55380-039-2 253 p.

Understanding Belize: A Historical Guide (Harbour 2006). 240 p.

Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2005). 260 p.

First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2004). 229 p.

101 Top Historical Sites of Cuba (Beach Holme 2004). 126 p.

Intensive Care: A Memoir (Anvil Press 2002). 80 p.

Cuba: A Concise History for Travellers (Harbour, 2004; Penguin Books 2002; Bluefield Books 2000). 198 p.

Twigg’s Directory of 1001 BC Writers (Crown Publications 1992). 194 p.

Strong Voices: Conversations with 50 Canadian Writers (Harbour 1988). 291 p.

Vander Zalm, From Immigrant to Premier: A Political Biography (Harbour 1986).

Vancouver and Its Writers (Harbour 1986). 165 p.

Hubert Evans: The First Ninety-Three Years (Harbour 1985).

For Openers: Conversations with 24 Canadian Writers (Harbour 1981).


First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 1 (Peking University Press, 2013)

Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 2 (Peking University Press, 2013)

Thompson’s Highway: British Columbia’s Fur Trade, 1800–1850: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 3 (Peking University Press, 2013)


Alan Twigg and Leonard Cohen

Alan Twigg and Leonard Cohen

Conversations with Robertson Davies (University Press of Mississippi 1989)

Margaret Atwood, Conversations (Firefly 1990)

Take This Waltz: A Celebration of Leonard Cohen (The Muses Company 1994)

Uncommon Ground: A Celebration of Matt Cohen (Knopf 2002)

Memories of Chekhov: Accounts of the Writer from His Family, Friends and Contemporaries (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Press, 2011). Edited and translated by Peter Sekirin; Introduction by Alan Twigg


George Woodcock: Anarchist of Cherry Street

Eric Nicol: Look Back in Humour

Peter Trower: The Men They Were Then

Jeannette Armstrong: Knowledge-Keeper of the Okanagan

Spilsbury’s Coast

Future Projects

Future projects include a play about the life and loves of Anton Chekhov and a non-fiction book: Two Lives: An Investigation of Goodness, about the founder of Belize, George Price, the longest-serving, democratically elected leader in history, and Dr. Louise-Jilek, a Canadian who has managed a remote epilepsy clinic in Tanzania for more than fifty years.